ISS Update: Spaceflight Meteorology Group, Part 1

Uploaded by ReelNASA on 28.06.2012

>> Dan Huot: Hey, everybody, Dan Huot here and you're joining me
at the spaceflight meteorology group.
We're right around the corner from Mission Control
and joining me today is --
from the National Weather Service is Frank Brody.
Frank, thanks so much
for letting us come inside your facility today
and telling us a little bit about what you do.
>> Frank Brody: Good morning, it's a pleasure
to have you here, Dan.
>> Dan Huot: So let's get right into it.
What exactly does the spaceflight meteorology
group do?
What are you guys responsible for?
>> Frank Brody: Well, first the spaceflight meteorology group is
part of the National Weather Service
and we are a special unit focused
on supporting NASA's unique requirements
for human spaceflight.
>> Dan Huot: So you were heavily involved, I assume then,
in the shuttle and every single launch
and landing of that vehicle.
Tell us a little bit about that experience.
>> Frank Brody: Yes.
Actually the spaceflight meteorology group, or SMG,
has been here at Johnson Space Center
since the Space Center started in the early '60s.
So SMG supported Gemini, Apollo, the shuttle --
the entire length of the shuttle program from STS1,
all the way through the last mission, last summer, STS135.
So we've been here through it all, providing weather support
to make sure the launches and landings were safe.
>> Dan Huot: Okay.
And what are some of the factors that you guys look out for?
I know the shuttle would sometimes scrub
for different weather related things.
What, what kind of weather are you guys always tracking
that could affect these launches and landings?
>> Frank Brody: Well, for the space shuttle,
that was a very weather sensitive vehicle.
As large as it was and as imposing as it was,
it was very -- weather had a big impact on both the launch,
on the launch situation and the landing.
So the conditions that we would watch would be lightning,
that's a big issue, low cloud ceilings were a, could,
could be a problem because that way, when either on a return
to launch site abort or on the final planned
into mission landing, that way the commander would be able
to have time to visually see the runway
because it's just a glider.
The other factors that we looked out for were regular rain,
rain couldn't be within a certain radius
of the shuttle's launch or landing path.
Also turbulence, moderate or greater turbulence was a factor.
So -- and, and possibly one
of the biggest issues was crosswinds.
If the wind was blowing across the runway, too, too hard,
that could be an issue with the shuttle landing, since, again,
it was essentially a heavy weight glider.
>> Dan Huot: Yeah.
And you weren't only monitoring that weather
for the Kennedy Space Center, you also had to monitor,
like you said, kind of like the, the other,
the over the ocean landing sites and things like that as well.
>> Frank Brody: Yes, because a shuttle couldn't launch unless
it can land pretty quickly somewhere.
So there were several transoceanic abort landing sites
in Europe and Northern African during the course
of the shuttle program and at least one of those locations had
to have acceptable weather
for the shuttle to be able to launch.
In addition, on launch day and of course on landing day,
we were watching the other landing sites in the U.S.,
not only Kennedy but Edwards Air Force Base and White Sands,
in case on launch day, there was an abort once
around contingency possibility.
And of course on landing day, we were watching all the U.S. sites
for the landing weather.
>> Dan Huot: Okay.
So you guys were kind of all over the map with shuttle.
Well, let's move a little bit forward and get
into what you guys are working on today.
Now our astronauts are launching and landing
on Russian Soyuz vehicles
and I understand you don't do the weather calculations
and predictions for those vehicles,
but you are heavily involved in a lot of the logistics,
getting people there and things like that.
>> Frank Brody: That's correct.
The Spaceflight Meteorology Group is forecasting for the
in route forecast when the NASA planes leave Houston to go
to Kazakhstan to retrieve the U.S. astronauts that just landed
on the Soyuz and then bring them back home.
And for that reason, it's a long flight to go
from Ellington Field, near Houston to Kazakhstan.
First, they go to Goose Bay, Canada, they stop and refuel.
Then they go across the ocean to Prestwick, Scotland.
And then from there, to Kazakhstan,
and then await the landing, load up the astronauts,
bring them back, reverse their route and come all the way back.
So what the Spaceflight Meteorology Group does is
forecast the weather that that NASA plane will experience
in route, all the way from Texas to Eastern Canada
to the Northern U.K. to Kazakhstan and back,
to make sure that the weather will not -- will be acceptable,
that the big storms won't be there.
Or if they are, what are the alternate locations
or the alternate routes that the plane could take.
And it has done that a couple of times.
>> Dan Huot: So, again, you guys are kind of all over the map
and I know we had some -- a little bit --
a couple of maps up, what, what,
what exactly are we looking at over here?
I can see we've got the whole world up right now.
>> Frank Brody: Well, right here
on the center screen is a weather map that shows the path
in the blue line, that's the path
that the NASA flight will take or did take
and will take any time that they go overseas to Kazakhstan
and it's going from Texas to Eastern Canada, to the U.K.,
to Kazakhstan, and then they reverse that, going back.
And the, the lines on the map are isobars,
which are pressure lines, which tell us, the meteorologists,
where the high pressure systems are,
the low pressure systems are, the fronts and things --
and the, and the moisture patterns
where there might be rain or thunderstorms or snow.
>> Dan Huot: Pretty much anything that could hold them
up or impede their trip.
>> Frank Brody: Right.
So with our, our [inaudible] system,
which is our National Weather Service System,
we are able superimpose the flight path on the weather map
so that we can better predict the weather
and then we create a graphic, based on the simplified version
of that, that we send to the flight crews
and the mission managers so they can also see, at a quick glance,
what kind of weather patterns this plane will be experiencing
as they go over and come back.
>> Dan Huot: Okay.
Well, now I want to jump into the future
of this spaceflight meteorology group.
You guys protected all of America's space fleet
in the past and you're also going to be looking
out for its future Spaceship Orion.
Tell us about some of the work you're doing for them.
>> Frank Brody: Orion is the next human spaceflight program
that NASA is pursuing and SMG is --
has a couple of areas that we're doing for support.
First, we're consulting with NASA on the, the,
the weather flight rules and the instrumentation
that will be necessary for a successful flight.
Since Orion has planned to land in the Eastern Pacific,
that will be a much different situation than a shuttle,
which landed on a runway.
So we've been investigating things like wave heights and how
to get weather data in an area where there is no weather data.
And upper air data, where there is no upper air balloons
and so we've in, in a consulting role for that.
For Orion Flight Test 1, which is scheduled for two years
from now, which would be mid 2014,
we will providing operational support here at MSG
for the actual landing in the Eastern Pacific
so that the right decisions can be made, both for launch
and landing for that test flight.
>> Dan Huot: Okay.
So watching the skies, you know, for our past astronauts
and also looking out for our future spacecraft.
We'll be sure to follow along and we'll,
we'll always hope for clear blue.